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Dec. 17 2009 - 4:24 am | 27 views | 0 recommendations | 7 comments

James Inhofe’s truth squad: one man, one press conference, one quick exit

Inhofe's press conference in Copenhagen

Inhofe's press conference in Copenhagen. Photo: Jeff McMahon

COPENHAGEN–He promised to lead a truth squad to Copenhagen to tell a particular “truth”– that anthropogenic global warming is “the second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state,” as he told Bloomberg, and that we needn’t worry about global warming, as he told Fox, because “God’s still up there.”

Instead, Sen. James Inhofe, the ranking Republican member of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, zipped into Copenhagen with a lone staffer, held a hastily organized press conference in the Media Center at the UN Climate Change Conference, and will soon fly home.

Why the rush? Pressing business in the Senate, his counsel, Tom Hassenboehler, told me.

Inhofe (R-Okla.) can’t prevent an accord on global warming right now because he has to get back to Washington to battle health-care reform.

And prevent is exactly what Inhofe had hoped to do. He was going to tell Copenhagen delegates they could not depend on the United States to  pass climate legislation, a message that could only erode the trust between nations here and undermine any international agreement.

Instead, Inhofe flew here to deliver that predictable message to a couple of dozen reporters.

“We’re not going to be passing a climate change bill,” Inhofe said, claiming the science has been debunked and the hoax is being perpetuated by Hollywood elites.

Hassenboehler pointed out that Sen. John Kerry also cut short his trip to get back to work on health care. But Kerry came here with a very different message.

When Inhofe stepped off his flight he entered a city, and perhaps a world, where climate skeptics are much more marginal than they are in the United States. If anyone here listened to Inhofe, it’s doubtful they would welcome his message. More than 120 world leaders have arrived to try to solve a problem. Would they really want to hear Inhofe tell them they’re all wrong?

So maybe he had to get back to work obstructing healthcare, or maybe he just thought about his message.

Or maybe he doesn’t believe himself any more.

When I asked Hassenboehler if Inhofe brought any other members of his truth squad with him, Hassenboehler answered a different question: “No, he flew commercial,” he said.


Hassenboehler hadn’t heard my question correctly, but it was an odd moment nonetheless. Oddly green. Why, if global warming is a hoax, was Inhofe’s staffer so eager to assure me that his boss hadn’t emitted excess carbon with a chartered flight?


7 Total Comments
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  1. collapse expand

    Nice read. Where, I’m curious, do we find such intellects to lead our government?

  2. collapse expand

    …But Kerry came here with a very different message. He said “I voted FOR a Copenhagen Climate Treaty before I voted AGAINST it.” He then threw away his war ribbons but did not throw away his war medals so as not to offend anyone. Then Senator Kerry cut short his trip to get back to work on health care.

  3. collapse expand

    The Congressional district where I reside, in mid-Missouri, is gerrymandered so an intelligent, enlightened progressive will probably never emerge victorious. The congressman who allegedly represents me comes from the same school of Republicans as George W. Bush–he has apparently decided his decisions never need to be reality-based. The newsletters he sends to constituents are so fact-free that I wrote him. In the missive, I said although we would probably never agree on important issues, I would magnanimously offer my finely honed information-gathering skills at no cost while he holds office; I would use those skills, developed during 40 years as an investigative journalist, to assist him and his staff determine reliable facts on a variety of issues, including health care reform. Unsurprisingly, Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer has not responded.

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    About Me

    Environmental reporting recruited me 25 years ago—on my first day as a reporter for my college newspaper, when I discovered my college was discarding radioactive waste in the regular city trash. Since then I've written hard news for dailies, including the Arizona Republic, and slanty news for alternative weeklies, including Newcity. I've written a column for New Times, stories on the Web for Forecast Earth, essays for PEN International and other magazines. I lived in an idyllic California village nestled among volcanoes and vineyards until my batteries were full of sunshine, and then I returned to my origins on the South Side of Chicago, where hope persists with no illusions about the struggle ahead. I cross the asphalt jungle by bicycle and el, mostly to get to the University of Chicago, where I teach journalism. But what matters more than any of this is a lifelong love for the natural world. We are all born with it, I believe, but some turn away.

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